AUTHOR: Sairaj Karande, GLC Mumbai
In a country where protesting can trigger violence or riots then will you call that country as democratic country ? Probably No. The fact is that the current generation of society don’t want to respect such person or to be friend or behave well with a person who follows or believes in any different ideology. For example, a person who firmly believes in ‘Right wing ideology’ expects everyone to be the follower of same ideology and vice versa. I firmly believe that a particular person who posses a specific ideology can respect the other person who believes in an opposite ideology.
Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 – Timeline of protests and violence
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has been the most hot topic to debate in past few months. To understand about the protests and the subsequent violence first let us have some insight on original definition and its key changes.
According to Section 1 (b) of Citizenship Amendment Act 1955; ‘Illegal migrant’ means a foreigner who has entered into India – (i) without a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf; or (ii) with a valid passport or other travel documents and such other document or authority as may be prescribed by or under any law in that behalf but remains therein beyond the permitted period of time;
Changed definition of Illegal Migrant states that ‘any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act. So there is change in the process of acquiring citizenship and i.e. the aggregate residence period required for immigrants to obtain citizenship of India was 11 years now it is made 5 years only for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
Section 2 of Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 states that ‘provided any person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014 and who has been exempted by the Central Government or under clause (c) of sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Passport (Entry into India), 1920 or from the application of the provisions of the Foreigners Act, 1946 or any rule or order made there under, shall not be treated as illegal migrant for the purposes of this Act,”
Section 6 of Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 states that “Provided that for the person belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the aggregate period of residence or service of Government in India as required under this clause shall be read as “not less than five years” in place of “not less than eleven years”.
Many criticized the act stating that if it is a genuine effort to accept persecuted minorities; then why not government accepted Hazara Shias from Afghanistan, Ahmedias from Pakistan, Hindus and Christians from Bhutan, Hindu Tamils from Sri Lanka. Another criticism is that India is country with 132 crore Indian citizens and they are already facing issues like Unemployment, Job losses, etc. Some even criticized the act for its unsecular fabric. Without any doubt, India at current position is suffering from various problems and taking the responsibility of minorities from the neighboring countries seems an illogical step. Maybe that can be a question but the fact remains that Hindus are persecuted minority in Islamic countries and India is the only safe land for them. Originally, the word ‘secular’ was not part of the preamble of Indian Constitution and it was added in the preamble through the 42nd amendment of Indian Constitution in 1976 under the leadership of Smt. Indira Gandhi. The 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution was enacted during the Emergency period. The ruling government i.e. Bharatiya Janata Party had promised in their previous election manifetstos that they will bring such bill which will ensure the Indian Citizenship to the members of persecuted religious minorities and after they got such brute majority in 2019 General Elections, one who has even a little knowledge of politics will surely not get surprised with the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. India voted for the BJP with the expectations that they will fulfill their manifesto promises and with the abrogation of Article 370, Triple Talaq and introduction of Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019; they indeed fulfilled those promises. While writing about protests, we should not ignore the rallies done in the support of CAA and further the protests against CAA was criticized by the 80% of majority community but initially when the bill was introduced and then when there was a connection of NRC with CAA, then the majority community was not in favor of an Act. In the Parliament, Citizenship Amendment Bill was supported by some secular parties like BJD, YSRCP and JD (U) however they opposed the implementation of NRC.
Let us understand the difference between CAA and NRC. So both CAA and NRC is a separate process. The CAA has come into force pan India after the bill was passed in the Parliament while the rules and process of NRC are not even decided. CAA will grant the citizenship to religious minorities who had entered into India before December 31st, 2014. The NRC process that is going on in Assam has been implemented by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and mandated by the Assam Accord. As per Assam Accord, NRC is implemented in the Assam and those who are not included in NRC will have to prove that either they or their ancestors came to Assam before 24th March, 1971. In fact, Hon’ble Prime Minister have made it clear that NRC will not be implemented in India however, during the election campaigns, Hon’ble Home Minister Amit Shah said it numerous times that after CAA, the Central Government is committed to start with the process of NRC. But there seems to be confusion between Prime Minister and Home Minister over the NRC process. Citizenship Amendment Act protests first began in North East states like Assam and then the movement was continued in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. The protests started in Assam on 4th December, 2019 as the people of Assam and other northeastern states do not want Indian Citizenship to be granted to any immigrant regardless of their religion because of their regional and cultural factors. On 15th December, major protests took place in the prestigious universities like Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. In 2020, Jamia Millia Islamia was ranked at No. 1 position among the central universities in India. Apart from JNU, students of these two universities were firmly opposing the act and their subsequent peaceful protests got violent reaction from police. To decide who was the wrong between students and police is a part of an investigation. Media channels didn’t played the neutral role during all these protests and violence. Obviously the question has to be raised when during peaceful protests, youth in middle of the road comes with a gun, when the group of some people enters JNU to attack the students. Then the first question arises whether the government even cares for the students or do they care for the opinion or a point of view of protestors. Various student activist took part in the protest opposing CAA, most prominently being Kanhaiya Kumar. Many political parties who are staunch follower of Secularism, liberalism and Socialism opposed CAA. In the states, where Opposition is in power like in West Bengal, thousands of people joined a demonstration which was led by CM of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee. She made a sharp move by making CAA as not a religious issue but a rich vs poor issue where poor will get affected from it. In Delhi, politicians like Sitaram Yechury and Yogendra Yadav along with around 1,200 protestors were detained by police. In Bangalore, Historian Ramchandra Guha along with other protestors were detained by Police. On 22nd December, Chief Minister of Rajasthan Shri. Ashok Gehlot held a march ‘Samvidhan Bachao Rally’ which was attended by around 3 lakhs people. Meanwhile Uttar Pradesh Government decided to recover the losses by seizing the property of the alleged protestors. Various prominent Bollywood celebrities participated in the Non-violent Anti-CAA protests. On the Foundation Day of ‘Indian National Congress’, Maharashtra State Congress leaders and its workers participated in flag march with the slogan of ‘Save Bharat-Save Constitution’. Attempt was being made by protestors to show that BJP is against the Indian Constitution and that they want to destroy the social fabric of Indian Constitution. On 29th December, LGBT rights activists protested against the CAA and NRC at the Kolkata Pride Parade. So from the every section of society, CAA was opposed stating it as a threat to the secular nature of our country. On 15th December itself , protests at Shaheen Bagh were started with the participation from mainly housewives and old women with their children. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Shri. Yogi Adityanath criticized the Shaheen Bagh protests and even Home Minister Shri. Amit Shah used some unnecessary statements during election campaign of Delhi. CAA, NPR was not only opposed in India but also in various foreign countries because of its discriminatory nature. Uttar Pradesh Police was being accused for being brutal against Anti-CAA protestors. Infact, the role of Police personnels was questioned during the protests. Prominent personalities of Bollywood like Naseeruddin Shah, Javed Jaffrey, Farhan Akhtar, Anubhav Sinha, Hansal Mehta, Anurag Kashyap, Swara Bhaskar and many other film personalities from different regional industries opposed Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the subsequent violence.. Fromer MLA of Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and leader of All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen Adv. Waris Pathan made a controversial statement at a rally in Gulbarga, Karnataka by saying ‘To those saying we have only put our women at the forefront-only the lionesses are out and you are already sweating. Imagine what would happen if we all come together. We are 15 crore, but that can outweigh 100 crore, remember that.’ The statement was criticized even by Anti-CAA protestors stating that it will weaken the movement. However later he withdrew his statement saying that he had no intentions of hurting the majority community sentiments. A resolution to scrap the CAA was moved by Chief Minister of Kerala Shri. Pinarayi Vijayan, CM of Punjab Capt. Amrinder Singh, CM of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Banerjee, CM of Rajasthan Shri Ashok Gehlot, the then CM of Madhya Pradesh Shri. Kamalnath. On 25th February, 2020; in the Bihar Legislative Assembly, resolution was passed to not implement the NRC in the Bihar. It was also maintained that NPR would be implemented in Bihar only in the old 2010 format. Various Chief Ministers of other states were in no mood to accept CAA and NPR and even passed the resolution against it.
2020 Delhi Riots
The 2020 Delhi Riots or North East Delhi riots began on 23rd February and took the lives of 53 people which included policeman, an intelligence officer, over a dozen hindus and two-third Muslims. Riots most probably occurred because of CAA protests and hate speech. More than 200 people were injured and as of now 2200 are detained. Many people left their home and went to their ancestral villages fearing that they are not safe in Delhi while many are still missing.
At a first place, our lawmakers must understand that the country works according to Constitution and should create or amend laws only according to it. In a democratic country, it is the responsibility of concerned government to atleast hear the opinion and views of the people who are protesting. After understanding opinion of protestors, if it deems fit then the necessary inclusion should be done. Without any doubt, Police personnels are the warriors of our country and they have proved it time and again. Even in this situation of Covid-19, they are our frontline warriors but in last few years during the violence and riots, the role of police personnels have been questioned. Also I firmly believe that the protestors should only follow non-violent methods as taught by Mahatma Gandhiji. Lack of honesty among the media channels, lack of awareness and absence of the humanity among the citizens of country is the biggest drawback of India. I firmly believe that ‘Ram Rajya’ can be created if the media becomes honest and if every citizen of India develops feeling of brotherhood for each other forgetting all the caste and religion factors.